RECENT events have for some reason triggered memories of a conversation on a golf course many years ago.
It was a corporate golf day for the Canberra Raiders, and myself and a colleague were playing in a four-ball along with two of the Green Machine's fringe first-graders.
As we enjoyed the spring sunshine and admired the view of the nearby Brindabellas from our vantage point on the green, one of the players said to the other: "I wonder what the ordinary people are doing today?"
His teammate then turned to me and asked, slightly awkwardly: "What's it like working at the paper? It must be a decent job?"
At that moment, it dawned on me that, in their eyes, I was one of the "ordinary people". The poor suckers who have to work five days a week and live in the real world. Non-footballers, in other words.
A couple of decades down the track, the ordinary people are doing it tough.
Thousands have already died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet, and many more are expected to follow.
Millions around the globe are dealing with the prospect of sudden, unexpected unemployment and wondering how much longer they can keep putting food on the table for their kids.
Meanwhile, the attitude of certain people in rugby league is a reminder of how far removed they are from reality.
Take the new ARL Commission chairman, Peter V'Landys, who has already warned that the code faces "catastrophic" consequences if it is forced to shut down, and was quick to lobby the federal government for financial assistance.
I appreciate rugby league is an industry that employs thousands of people, but it could also be argued that there are myriad other worthy causes - including rival sporting codes.
Indeed, given that the NRL's past two broadcasting deals have been worth $1.025 billion and $1.8 million (both over five years), why hasn't it stashed more away for a rainy day?
It's a conundrum that left Wests Tigers centre BJ/Joey/Joseph Leilua puzzled this week.
"They [the NRL] should be saving money for if something like this happens," he said. "I thought they were handling their money better, but if they say we're going to last three months, we're in trouble." As for the prospect of sharing in the financial pain, Leilua said: "We [the Tigers players] are like, I better not be taking a cut, because we've got mortgages to pay and bills to pay."
BJ/Joey/Joseph never struck me as the sharpest tool in the shed during his time at the Knights.
But I would be interested to know if he collected full pay from the moment he signed for Newcastle, even though his debut was delayed after being de-registered by the NRL over an off-field incident.
I would also be interested to know if he was paid in full when he returned to Newcastle for the 2015 pre-season in such poor shape that a senior player reportedly tore shreds off him at training, or last year at Canberra when he served a two-game suspension for dropping the knees into Manly winger Reuben Garrick.
And if BJ/Joey/Joseph is wondering, like many of us, what the NRL does with its revenue, you don't need to be a forensic accountant to pinpoint the primary expense. All 16 clubs have a salary cap of $9.8 million, so if you add third-party sponsorships on top, about 500 NRL players are collectively earning more than $160 million per year.
Then combine that with the cost of flying them around the country, accommodating them in hotels and feeding them, as well as the wages of coaching and performance staff and administration personnel, and what was once a working-class game is now massive business.
Yet until recently few clubs have been money-making enterprises.
The Knights, for decades, existed at a subsistence level and considered any season in which they broke even a cause for celebration.
It has only been since the Wests Group took over that they have become a profitable operation, banking in the vicinity of $1 million for seasons 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Now Wests are facing a downturn they could never have envisaged when they agree to bankroll the city's NRL franchise.
By my calculations, they are short almost 220,000 bums on seats - the difference between last season's overall attendance at McDonald Jones Stadium, and the 10,239 who turned out for last week's win against the Warriors. If you average that out at a conservative $20 a ticket, that's around $4.5 million missing from the club's coffers.
Wests, presumably, will cope with the shortfall, given that according to their last published financial statement, in the year ending January 2019 they made a $14.3 million profit, and had more than $310 million in total assets.
Yet in the eyes of one of rugby league's sharpest analysts, Phil Gould, perhaps fans who have paid up front for season tickets should not bother seeking refunds.
"If you want your club to survive into the future," Gould wrote on Twitter, "it's probably best to call it a donation and put it down to bad luck."
A "donation" - on top of V'Landys' request for taxpayer assistance - to bail out a multimillion-dollar industry?
Isn't it extraordinary how rugby league takes the "ordinary people" for granted?